QUEEN CREEK, AZ — There's a housing boom across the Valley, and Schnepf Farms is the latest farm to sell a piece of land to developers.
Mark Schnepf tells ABC15 his family made the decision to sell 13 acres of their 300-acre farm to pay for improvements.
"Fencing, utilities, infrastructure, because the farm is 80 years old now," Schnepf said.
Construction is now underway for about 150 rental homes, expected to be completed by late summer of this year. Schnepf says they'll be single-level cottage-like homes, with walkways and parks in between.
According to the Maricopa Association of Governments, more people moved to Maricopa County than any other county in the country in 2020. Data shows Queen Creek has the highest population and housing growth in the state.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says over half of the farmland in Maricopa County has been sold to urban development.
“It’s kind of a sad thing to see all of the farmland go away, but it’s not unexpected," Schnepf said. "It's part of Arizona being one of the most popular places in the country to move to and we welcome those new people and hope they have a wonderful life here as they come to Arizona."
Schnepf says farming is a challenging business and developers are willing to pay big bucks to build, which is why so many farms are being sold. He says going the "agri-tainment" route, with rides and experiences to the public for example, may be the only way for some farms to survive.
"The challenge with farmland is that you just don't make enough off of typical farming to earn a living," he said. "I mean, it's really difficult to do that in today's market with high prices especially with the inflation rates and low commodity prices. It's really difficult to earn a living as a farmer."
As for his sale of 13 acres of land, he says it's going to help preserve his farm in the long run.
"My wife and I could sell it tomorrow and never work another day," Schnepf said. "We love what we do and want to keep Schnepf Farms as a legacy to the community."